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If you’re reading this, odds are you’re stressed. (Sorry, bb!)
Well, we’ve got some good news for you: It’s possible to tease, tongue, touch, taste, tantalize, and thrust your way to lower stress levels. *Claps*
We believe pleasure is a fundamental aspect of a safe and healthy sex life. That’s why we rely on experienced writers, educators, and other experts to share their suggestions on everything from the technique you use to the sex toy you buy.
We only recommend something that we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched — if you know what we mean. Wink.
Whether you’re going to Pound Town or Cuddle City, these tips will help cut cortisol and maximize pleasure.
Just as some people find a yoga class more stress-relieving than a workout boot camp class, some people find making love more stress-relieving than, well, banging.
So, before you start getting down in the name of decreased stress, take a moment to figure out what kind of getting down will be best at busting stress for you.
If you’re having a partnered or multipartnered sex sesh, spread the word before you get into it.
Specifically, rosemary or lavender candles. Both scents may reduce stress.
Also: mood-lighting rocks.
TBH, this is ALWAYS good advice.
But lube is especially important when you’re stressed.
Why? Because stress can lead to temporary pelvic floor muscle tension, which can:
- impede natural lubrication in the vagina
- make penetration in either hole less comfortable
Lean into responsive desire
Yes, some positions are better for busting through stress than others. And yes, some people find sex stress-relieving.
But as clinical sex counselor Eric M. Garrison, author of “Mastering Multiple Position Sex,” says, “Many folks need to begin the de-stressing process prior to having sex.”
That’s why he recommends leaning into responsive desire (aka doing things that help get you in the mood) before trying out any of the 10 stress-relieving sex positions below.
That might include:
- reading erotica
- watching ethical (read: paid) porn
- listening to audio erotica
- taking a steamy shower with your waterproof buzzy bud
- getting (or giving) a foot massage
“This position is especially great when the receiving partner is the one who is stressed,” Garrison says.
Why? Because they lie on their side while their partner holds them from behind.
“The sensation of being engulfed can be incredibly comforting,” he says.
If penetrative play is on the table, when the receiver is ready, the partner in back can ease their penis or dildo into their partner’s front or back hole.
Pleasure-boosting tip: Have the receiver use a masturbation sleeve, like the Shotpocket Sleeve or the Tenga Vacuum Cup Masturbation Sleeve, or a stimulator, like the We-Vibe Melt or Lelo Ina Wave, on themselves.
Solo sex has been a longtime remedy for stress.
So, why not touch yourself beside your partner(s) who is (are) also touching themselves? As Garrison says, “The physical sensation plus the visual accoutrement can be very stress-relieving indeed.”
He notes that mutual masturbation is an especially good option for duos who haven’t had The STI Status Talk. Ditto goes for those who can get pregnant.
“If someone is so worried about contracting an STI, transmitting one to their partner, or getting pregnant, they aren’t going to be able to relax enough to enjoy the session and reap its stress-minimizing benefits,” he says. Fair!
“Often, when you’re stressed it’s because you feel out of control,” says Sadie Allison, founder of online sex toy boutique Tickle Kitty and author of “The Mystery of the Undercover Clitoris.”
“By giving oral to somebody, you’re taking back control, which can help shift your mindset from ‘I’m helpless’ to ‘I’m in control,’” she says.
Plus, she adds, “When you’re the giver, you’re focused on your partner and the techniques you’re trying, and not whatever it is that’s been stressing you out.”
Have a partner you trust? Enjoy receiving oral? Allison suggests inviting your partner to pleasure you.
Some lines to try:
- “Hey, baby. I’ve been feeling really stressed recently and would love to lose myself in the feel of your mouth. What do you think?”
- “I’m feeling stressed and was thinking about using my Womanizer. But I’d prefer to feel your mouth, if you’re up for it. Are you?”
“I can promise in most situations, once someone you trust starts going down on you, you’re going to be too caught up in the pleasure to feel stressed,” she says.
If you don’t have a partner, try an oral sex stimulator, such as:
What sounds better than having your honey lather your body in oil or lotion and work through your tension knots?
Rhetorical Q. The answer is obviously nothing!
“Lying faceup can feel vulnerable and create an even greater stress response in the body,” Garrison says. “Start facedown, then flip onto your back after a half hour when you’re feeling completely comfortable.”
You may also add in a massage candle — which, for the record, is different from a regular ole candle, he says.
Here’s how it works: When you light the candle, the wax melts into a hot (but not too hot!) oil that can be massaged into the skin.
Here are some massage candles to buy:
Advanced anal-havers to the front.
(Sorry, newbies. Because stress can result in muscle tension — including anal sphincter muscle tension — now’s not a good time to dabble South.)
Have the receiver lie back-flat on the bed after plopping a pillow (like the Liberator Wedge or Dame Pillo) under their hips to expose their bum hole.
After some serious warming up, grab the lube, have the giver get on top, and lock eyes while sliding in.
Pro tip: Rewatch “Queer as Folk” episode 1 or hit up “CrashPadSeries” for a reminder of just how intimate missionary anal can be. (Also: steamy scenes = A+ arousal!)
Ever heard of tantrified sex?
The SparkNotes version: Tantric sex is play that’s been slowed wayyyy down and imbued with a hearty dose of spirituality, breath work, and intense eye contact (called eye-gazing).
Well, yab-yum is the tantrified version of the lotus sex position.
Tyomi Morgan, a certified sexologist, authentic tantra practitioner, and international pleasure coach, explains: “The penetrating partner sits on the floor with their legs crossed, then the receiving partner sits on their lap facing them, legs wrapped around their partner’s back.”
Apparently, this aligns your genital chakras.
(If hip or knee flexibility makes sitting cross-legged uncomfortable, she says either partner can plant their feet on the floor.)
“Place your hands on each other’s hearts and sync your breath,” she says. After 21 in-sync breaths, “you’ll feel incredible, like your stress is melting away.”
Intrigued by tantrified sex but currently riding solo? Good news: According to Morgan, tantric masturbation — also known as sacred masturbation — is totally a thing.
“Start by belly-breathing to trigger the rest and digest response in the body,” she says. “Next, focus on breathing into your genitals, because where the breath goes, energy flows.”
Continue this breath pattern while placing your right hand over your heart and your left hand over your bits. When you do this, Morgan says you may experience a warming sensation in your hand.
That’s when you’re ready to get playing.
“Go slow and enjoy the experience, because the emphasis during sacred masturbation is on pleasure, not orgasm,” she says.
Allison has a theory: “The more physically demanding a position is and the more concentration it requires, the easier it will be to forget whatever is stressing you out.”
Sound relatable? Then give squatting rider on top a whirl.
Have your partner lie on their back, then plant your feet besides their hips and sit in a squat ass-to-grass style on their penis or dildo.
Next, engage your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core to slowly lower yourself at a speed and rhythm that feel best.
As you do, why not have your partner use a wand vibrator, like the Le Wand or Wartenberg Wheel, on your nipples, pubic mound, and lower abdomen? Hello, sensation!
Obvi, when you get tired you can plop down onto your knees to give your muscles a breather.
Another option: Plop a positioning chair, like this one on Amazon, over your partner’s hips. The elastic straps will hold you up and help you bounce on their bits more easily. Fun!
“If you’re looking to get your mind off something stressful, why not try something totally new like double penetration?” Allison says.
Double penetration might include:
- adding a butt plug to P-in-V
- using a ball gag during anal
- inserting a string of anal beads during strap-on sex
No matter your take on DP, by the end “there will be a lot of endorphins and a lot of pleasure,” Allison says.
Romping is ridiculously good. But it isn’t always enough to bust through stress.
It’s practically a Healthline rallying cry at this point: Pleasure — not orgasm — is the point of sex.
Thing is, orgasms release more of the stress-busting love hormone (oxytocin) than pleasure alone.
So, if orgasms are accessible to your bod, now’s a good time to prioritize ’em.
Be honest: How many hugs do you give/receive per day?
If it’s under 12 (as it likely is), Garrison says a cuddle sesh is in order.
He explains: “Less than that and our skin hunger needs aren’t being met, and when our skin hunger needs aren’t being met, our cortisol levels increase.” In other words, fewer hugs = more stress.
Sex can meet those needs for people who find sex stress-relieving, but for folks who don’t, he says a cuddle puddle is a better bet.
“Even outside of sex, belly breathing can help you slowly release the stress and tension you’re carrying,” Morgan says.
Sex can allow you to get through stress while you get off. But coitus isn’t a sure-fire solution for leveling off sky-high cortisol levels.
So, if you’re still feeling stressed out post-romp, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare provider who can help you come up with a stress-reducing game plan made just for you.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.